Uruguayan Senate to vote on abortion law Wednesday

The Uruguayan Senate is set to vote on Wednesday on a bill that would legalize abortion for any reason during the first trimester, which would make Uruguay the first country to legalize abortion in Latin America.

According to local analysts, the bill passed by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives but probably will not have enough votes to pass in the Senate.

The Senate has 31 members and pundits say the body is sharply divided with some members voting across party lines.  A likely vote of 18-13 would keep the bill from passing.

Even if the measure passed, President Jorge Batlle said he would not sign the bill, and Congress would almost certainly not have enough votes to override the presidential veto. 

If the bill is rejected by the Senate, it could not be brought before the body again until the next Congress, which would be after March 1, 2005, when the Congress elected this October 31 would take office.

Some politicians have proposed holding a national referendum on the measure if it fails to pass in the Senate.

According to the bill, a woman would be able to procure an abortion if economic, social or family hardships were an impediment to continuing with the pregnancy. 

Abortion is not legal in any country in Latin America.  Currently it is only permitted in Cuba.

Protesters, mostly pro-lifers, stood outside the Congressional building Wednesday to express their opinions about the measure.

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